Mental Health : Time to talk

Mental Health : Time to talk

Mental health issues are nothing to be ashamed of or to hide. Stigma persists because we misunderstand mental health issues. We think mental health issues are somehow volitional, but people don’t intentionally develop mental health problems. So, let’s change this approach by starting a conversation because it’s OK to talk about mental health issues.

Start a conversation about mental health

Talking about mental health issues may not be easy but it’s a vital. One can break down any stigma surrounding mental health by being open to the idea of it. It’s the little things that make a big difference, you don’t have to be an expert to talk and to listen. Someone around you might have a mental health problem right now – a family member, your friend, your workmate. He or she just might not know how to tell you.

How should we talk about mental health?

Reaching out is the first step to making someone feel better. Talking about mental health is more than one conversation. You don’t have to pressure yourself to get everything out at once, or to one person.

If you noticed a close friend had fever, would you hesitate to ask if they’ve seen a doctor? Probably not. We’d express empathy and concern. On the other hand, if your close friend started showing symptoms of depression, how comfortable would you feel asking about this and suggesting they see a doctor?  Many people would struggle with the second scenario, fearing their friend might be offended. But why?

Avoid words like “crazy” or “psycho”
Slang like “mental,” “schizo,” “crazy,” “loonie,” or “nutter” are stigmatizing words that become embedded in people’s minds from a young age. We should be mindful with our words.

Share your own experience with mental health if you are comfortable
When you share your own experience, it reaches people who are going through similar experiences as well as the general public and makes it easier to talk about these issues.

End the stigma
Stigma causes people to feel ashamed for something that is out of their control. Self-inflicted stigma can make it difficult for people to speak about even their own mental health problems. As a community, we need to raise our voices against stigma by talking openly about mental health, educating ourself and others, showing compassion for those with mental illness, choosing empowerment over shame – don’t harbour self-stigma and be honest about treatment.

Separate the person from the problem
Avoid language that identifies people only by their mental health problems. Speak as ‘people with autism’ rather than referring them as ‘autistic’. It’s something the person is suffering from or is living with, and it is different from the person.

Recognize the amazing contributions of people with mental health issue
Mental health disorders can be present among creative people like playwrights, novelists, biographers, and artists. There have been instances where people have been successful in achieving their goals inspite of suffering from mental illness.

Use Humour (with caution)
Humour is the best medicine for your brain and people do feel lighter by laughing at themselves. But it may not always work with everyone. So, use humour with caution.

There’s no right way or best way to talk about mental health issues, but having a plan can help make the process less overwhelming. I hope you find the above tips helpful and remember starting a conversation is important #Timetotalk as by just talking about mental health issues, even to one person, helps bust stigma and you may be surprised to find that you’re actually helping others.

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